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An open eye

  Sat 19th March 2016

I started reading Anita Brookner's A Closed Eye whilst I was in London last month; and as you'll know she passed away last week. I learned from the obituaries that her birth name is the same one as the great Austrian symphonist.

It's a treacly novel, and I stopped reading it after the phone call I had with Donna when she told me that her life "couldn't be better" with the boyfriend she met after me. It was an irrational sadness, since I only want Donna to be happy; I just had this pang that that couldn't be with me, the force of which was undampened by my rational knowledge that it'd never work with someone on 70K and 200 miles away. She was so lovely though. Fucking on the stairs, dancing, chatting, her colourful little house in Milton Keynes, her spindly chairs with their little felt feet, her sextalk, her slippery grey top, her witty, sceptical friends in the pub garden in Tring. "I love how you look at me. I feel adored," she said, the morning after I was worried that I'd overdone the staring at her the night before, with my cock rigid as she sat on my thighs facing me.

That morning, I went back to my table at the pub and joined the early drinkers at 9am and got into a good conversation, grateful to him for taking my mind off Donna. I couldn't face any more Brookner gloom. I closed it, bookmarked now with a railway ticket, a piece of card one could think designed deliberately for powdering your nose, with its slippery laminate face and rolled-up two-inch steeple.

I restarted it when I was on the train the other day to Liverpool, an appropriate setting: a train full of dehumanised commuters trafficked by gang bosses to their jobs.

You can get the whole thing from the opening of chapter ten: "On waking, those cold mornings, she had a cowering feeling of dismay, as if she had been ordered into a life not of her choosing."

So far, so rather trying. But then, she is a writer who only doles rewards. As she says herself of a character: "Like many difficult people, she was capable of occasional persuasive kindnesses." Of her best friend's daughter, she says "Her heart ached for Lizzie, so bleak, so composed." It's a depressed but ambivalent admiration.

I'm on page 137 of 251 but there are stirrings afoot. After her self-admonishing "Love is sometimes wasted on those who act upon it", she gets to a stage where she says "she saw herself as a restless dissatisfied woman, dissatisfied because of that very innocence that seemed her safeguard, and likely to be frustrated through the very timidity of her desires."

On the train today, I felt bigheaded, Brookner backhandedly flattering me with a sex drive that she didn't possess -- as if that's a moral advantage to anyone. Simultaneously, I like the jouissance, "the pleasure of the text" in reading a book like A Closed Eye. To flatter your readers is not something any serious novelist does, surely, but I like testing how the commentaries on her characters might apply to my own states. That's a better form of pleasure for me, and it makes this difficult but rewarding novel something something something I feel like a reviewer now and I will stop.


Down a reopened pub this afternoon. There's a shortage of proper, classless, boozers in Lancaster, and it's a pleasure to see one being added to its number. It's a mongrel of a city Lancaster. The working class is divided between a poor rump of heavy-drinking customer service serfs who attend to unknown items in the bagging area, a group like me who make a profession of not working, and a rich, retired and racist group who have benefited from the golden age of British social provision.

To my right, two local women, to my left, two women from Barrow. The man sat opposite interrupted my conversation with the latter by asking where they were were from. He asked for the younger woman's name, but ignored her older friend, which I thought was very rude. A man of my acquaintance came over to retrieve his jacket. "I were gonna give it to Oxfam, you'd been gone so long," I said. "That's where I got it from!"

Last night, I made two large bowls of what we call "square chips" -- centimetre-diced potatoes done as chips -- for me and the girls, at half ten, once Jenny got in from performing in The Crucible. There was this collective grunting, scoffing sound, mayonnaise and salt, as we woofed them down, which made me tilt my head towards my chest in a silent glee.

2 comments

Comment from: kono [Visitor]

I’ve spent a good part of my life in dive bars, as we septics call them, they are both beautiful and hideous places, funny thing, when i got the sack from the Big World Bank Machine we all went out that morning, when it was arranged the first thing said was, “we need a bar open early, ask Kono, he’ll know where to go.” Still like an early pint now and then, good for the mind… those chips sound fucking fantastic as well…

Tue 22nd March 2016 @ 16:24
Comment from: [Member]

I love early drinking. A pint at 9am tilts the day in a wonderful way, and everything that follows goes swimmingly well.

It’s a compliment to be thought of a person who’d know somewhere open early too!

Thu 24th March 2016 @ 21:20


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